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My Story

I’m a Midwestern gal. Both sides of my family have deep roots in the Midwest and I love the beauty of the land, the work ethic and the distinctive culture of this region.

It all started with a job loss and two epic road trips across the United States. In early 2009, my sister-in-law, who lives in Maine, purchased a stick shift Saab for her daughter who was going to college near San Francisco. (Forget about why the car wasn’t purchased in Cali considering the distance between car and daughter.) The opportunity for a cross-the-entire-United-States-continent-road-trip opened up. And let me tell you, the ten day trip was awesome. We decided on some rules right away. One, no family gossip. Two, talking was optional as my sister-in-law put it, “I can live in my head.”  And three, we’d take a side trip down a scenic byway everyday. The Tennessee School of Craft is exceptional, along with Mt. Magazine in Arkansas and rebooking a night’s stay from Albuquerque to Santa Fe was well worth it; turquoise jewelry and Georgia O’Keefe Museum aside. If you can get to the Grand Canyon right before their spring season starts, you’ll have the place to yourself. If possible stay at the Bright Angel cabins. You may have guessed we took the southern route which was a good idea for late February. My sister-in-law planned the whole trip and it was wonderful. It also saved my life.

The second trip was just a couple of months later when my sister and I took a slightly shorter road trip (distances are vast across the American West) when we traveled from Denver to Phoenix to visit Aunt Pat and family. That was wonderful, too! We ventured off I-25 once we were in New Mexico and took the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway through Taos. And that’s where this whole thing started. I didn’t do most of the driving on these junkets. My sister-in-law likes to drive a stick and my sister has a lead butt, so I was in charge of gasping at the beautiful scenery and finding ourselves on the map.

We were driving through Taos when I shouted, “yarn shop!”  My sister did a quick swerve and found a parking spot right outside LaLana Wool. Talk about enchanted! It was one of those times when you don’t look at the ‘price side of the menu’ but just let yourself be amazed at the yarn and fleece before you start picking colors. Two hours later, I had a large bag of lovely plant dyed single-ply worsted yarn in the softest shades of green. I could have picked any color, really. (To this day, I haven’t knit this sacred yarn.) As we were wrapping things up in the yarn shop, my sister noticed a booklet on the counter called New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails. I looked over, too, and klieg lights exploded in my head. In a flash I envisioned fiber arts trails in Minnesota.

 

Sunset on Trout Lake, Northern Minnesota

It’s a rare thing when brilliant flash goes straight to implementation and that’s what the last four years have been about. Setting aside the financial considerations of starting a business, the first question was, who are these people? I’d known quilters and knitters who make extraordinary pieces and I have knit for years, but from what I read in the New Mexico Trails book, textiles are an ancient art and people spend their lives learning the craft. When I got home I contacted the Textile Center in Minneapolis. The first thing I needed to do was meet people, so I volunteered in their library and observed and was truly amazed by what I saw happening there.

Since then I have focused my efforts toward publishing an art calendar called, Fiber Art Almanac. The Almanac was first published in 2010 and I have produced five books in all. In a nutshell, the Almanac is an annual printed calendar and journal that’s filled with inspiring fiber and textile art from Midwestern fiber artists. Via the Almanac I have promoted over 100 fiber artists through printed books, online feature articles, social media, exhibits and events. I plan to continue publishing the Almanac. Click here to see images from the Almanac.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the last few years is that I’m very good at making connections between people. I’m a connector. What a perfect way to utilize that talent by connecting people who love fiber arts with each other. The artists want to become known and fiber enthusiasts want to be inspired and have a place to travel. It’s really that simple. People have asked me “why the Midwest and not just Minnesota?” While I love Minnesota, married a Minnesota guy and we raised our kids here, the short answer is that I’ve made friends all across the Midwest and I grew up in Iowa, so I want to include those folks, too.

While the goal of the Almanac is to tell inspirational stories, the goal of the Midwest Fiber Arts Trails is to create communities. Places and people along scenic by-ways, hometowns and back roads across the Midwest. Where you’ll want to go and see fiber arts exhibits and studios, local history, spend some time outdoors, shop and learn how to make things. The guiding mission is to celebrate and promote the work of contemporary fiber artists and share the Midwest’s vibrant textile heritage.

Jenny Wilder 

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Publisher & Founder, Fiber Art Almanac and Midwest Fiber Arts Trails

The tapestry in the banner at the top of the page was woven by Lila Nelson.

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